G4S unveiled as official whipping boy of The 2012 Olympic Games

That’s a tongue in cheek headline, I should point out, for any of the Olympic or G4S legal teams reading.

I had to shake my head this afternoon when I flipped my iPhone over to The Telegraph and saw the lead headline: “I don’t know if [our] guards [will] speak English”, says G4S Chief Executive.

It’s laughable, it really is.

Have you been following this story across the week?

It’s been reading like a carefully orchestrated series of PR leaks intended to make everyone feel fantastic about the upcoming Olympics. Fantastic, because, frankly, if this is the only problem we’re having with The Olympics then I think we’re in a pretty good position — because this one is swiftly fixable.

There’s nothing the British public likes better than a highly paid CEO and reasonably profitable big company getting raked across the coals.

G4S — formally known as Group 4 — is a private security contractor. They’ve got a very big contract managing portions of the Olympic games security. This week, newspapers reported that the company hadn’t managed to hire it’s full quota of staff. All sorts of catastrophically embarrassing stories subsequently emerged. Silly ones, but nothing too drastic. The press reckoned that the British Army would have to step in to fill the 3,000 short-fall of guards required because of the G4S blunder.

Meanwhile, in glorious style, the British press pointed out that instead of being paid less, G4S was apparently upping its fees.

Yup: Time to bring in the crisis PR team.

Here’s what G4S says, right now, on it’s website:

We have recently encountered significant difficulties in processing applicants in sufficient numbers through the necessary training, vetting and accreditation procedures. As a result, we will be unable to deliver all of the necessary workforce numbers.

We have worked very closely with LOCOG throughout the build up. At the point we felt that we could no longer assure the scale of the security workforce we had committed to, we advised them of the situation. The Government has therefore decided to increase the number of military personnel who will work at the Games.

That’s not ideal.

The statement goes on to point out that the screw-up is going to cost G4S about £35-50 million pounds. Not ideal that. But. And there is a but: Somebody at G4S signed the contract saying they could deliver this. So it’s right and proper that they take responsibility for fixing it as best they can.

One of the key issues raised this week as the shock and horror expressed that our good old chaps and ladies from the Army were going to have to be drafted in to do menial security work — some of whom will have recently returned from tours in Afghanistan.

I can imagine that standing searching bags is probably the last thing that you’d want to be doing when, 3 weeks prior, you were literally dodging snipers thousands of miles away.

There is another viewpoint here though and I think it’s a valid one. Given there’s been a screw up by the private contractor and given that a solution is needed — I can’t think of a better fix. If I were heading off to see some of The Games, I’d feel a heck of a lot safer knowing I was being protected by the finest. Indeed, it would give me an opportunity to wait patiently whilst the chap or lady searched my bag, before thanking them warmly.

Surely an extra 3,000 troops on hand would help encourage any idiots thinking of disrupting The Games to think twice as well?

I also react positively to ensuring that every soldier’s family and friends are allocated with plenty of Games tickets. G4S should also do something for each of the 3,000 soliders.

Fundamentally I think the only answer for G4S is to dig deep. Get stuck into their wallets and flash the cash. Answer every question raised with authority and confidence. Setup a microsite with a frequently asked questions page. Over communicate. Over deliver. Make it clear you’re fixing it — and, er, obviously — actually fix it. But demonstrate what you’re doing openly and as comprehensively as possible. Anything else will enable the UK media to continue to dig the already massive hole for them. Where the media treads, the politicians follow — so it looks like  many MPs will spend the next week kicking G4S.

Which as I said before, highlights that everything is alright really.

Yes this is a bit of a dropped ball by G4S. We’re lucky to have the ability to call upon the Army (and/or the Police as necessary). We’re further lucky that these 3,000 serving men and women don’t effectively have a choice. And we’re further lucky that since they’re serving in one of the best Armed Forces on the planet, they’re actually rather good. Professionals. We’re lucky to be able to call upon professionals to plug the gap.

But actually, this isn’t a big problem in the scheme of things.

It’s not like that other Olympics — was it the one in Greece, where the living quarters weren’t actually finished days before the Games were due to begin?

If this is the only ‘big thing’ that’s concerning folk in regard to The Olympics (the security issue being the exception) then I think we should be thankful.

One final point: In this hyper-connected world it’s surprising to see that G4S, a company that employs well over 600,000 folk worldwide, hasn’t got social media yet. They’re being absolutely pummelled on Twitter by the look of it. Witness this tweet from trade union Unite:

 If ‪#G4S‬ can cut corners with the ‪#Olympics‬ then it doesn’t bear thinking about what they’ll do to essential police services like 999 calls

That’s been written by a social media (or PR) team who know precisely what they’re doing. I couldn’t find anything official from G4S. You’d think they would be all over this sort of thing given the amount of damage their image is taking at the moment. I’m sure I’m not the only one who looked at their website today (or this week) to get their side of the story — what a fantastic missed opportunity.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of The Pursuit of Quality. He is a quality addict and would sooner wait an extra month to earn the money to buy something better!